Working to become the first 'White Ribbon' University on the island of Ireland

Munster Technological University (MTU) aims to become the first White Ribbon University on the island of Ireland, writes Professor Margaret Linehan, Head of the School of Humanities
Working to become the first 'White Ribbon' University on the island of Ireland

A recent report from Safe Ireland showed that a total of 3,450 women and 589 children who had never contacted a domestic violence service, looked for support and safety from abuse and coercive control during the first six months of Covid-19 from March to August 2020. Picture: Stock

MUNSTER Technological University (MTU) are delighted to partner with the Men’s Development Network, which is a non-profit organisation, with the key focus on being leaders in promoting change and equality within society.

Under the mission statement: ‘Better lives for men, better lives for all’, the Men’s Development Network engages with men on various levels by promoting gender equality and transforming masculinities and developing healthy masculinities.

A key objective of the Men’s Development Network is to engage with men who are violent in their relationships to effect change in their behaviour.

Evidence suggests that globally, and in Ireland, domestic violence has risen since the outbreak of COVID-19.

A recent report from Safe Ireland showed that a total of 3,450 women and 589 children who had never contacted a domestic violence service, looked for support and safety from abuse and coercive control during the first six months of Covid-19 from March to August 2020.

Further evidence has shown that one in four women in Ireland are targeted during their lifetime by current, or former partners, and more shockingly one in five women will have been abused by the time they are just 25 years old.

 Prof. Margaret Linehan, Head of the School of Humanities. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Prof. Margaret Linehan, Head of the School of Humanities. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Violence against women affects women’s well-being and prevents them from fully participating in society. It impacts on families, the community, and the nation. To prevent violence against women, it is important to understand its gendered nature. Women are far more likely than men to experience sexual violence and violence from an intimate partner, and with more severe impacts.

Women are more likely than men to be afraid of, hospitalised by, or killed by a partner.

Approximately, 95% of all victims of violence, whether women or men, experience violence from a male perpetrator.

Violence against women occurs across cultures and communities. It takes many forms, including physical, sexual, social, emotional, cultural, spiritual, and financial abuse, and a wide range of controlling, coercive, and intimidating behaviour. Regardless of the form it takes, it is understood to be most often used by men and its impact is to limit and control women’s independence.

Violence against women does not always have to be physical abuse – often other forms of abuse, such as verbal abuse and threats, social isolation, limiting access to money, can be enough to impact a person’s behaviour and cause them to be fearful. Women often describe these non-physical forms of abuse as being severely damaging to their self-esteem, independence, and well-being.

To promote positive change and help end violence against women, staff at MTU will be taking part in the White Ribbon Day, which is held annually on November 25. White Ribbon Day is also known as the International Day for the Eradication of Violence against Women. 

White Ribbon is a global movement that focuses on making personal and community change to prevent violence against women and children. In conjunction with the Men’s Development Network, MTU President, Prof. Maggie Cusack, has pledged never to commit, condone, or remain silent about gender-based violence. Prof. Cusack has urged the entire MTU community, both staff and students, to come together to say no to violence against women.

White Ribbon Ireland seeks to change the attitudes and behaviours that lead to, and perpetuate men’s violence against women, by engaging boys and men to lead social change. 

The White Ribbon Day also signals the start of the 16 days of activism to stop men’s violence against women, which ends on Human Rights Day, on 10 December.

Other related activities across MTU which seek to end violence against women, include training workshops for staff in relation to sexual consent, sexual harassment, and guidance on how to report such activities. Likewise, for first-year students, across all MTU campuses, mandatory workshops on Active Consent are provided.

To become accredited as a White Ribbon University, MTU will begin the process by hosting an online seminar together with the Men’s Development Network, on November 2 . Speakers include: Prof. Maggie Cusack, President MTU, Sean Cooke, CEO, Men’s Development Network, John Meyler, former Cork Hurling Manager, David Meyler, former professional soccer player, Eve McDowell, activist and founding member of Stalking Ireland, and Dr Shawna Coxon, Deputy Commissioner, an Garda Síochána.

The seminar will be chaired by RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan.

The seminar will begin the three-year programme of work which MTU must complete to attain White Ribbon University status. White Ribbon university accreditation helps demonstrate to staff, students, stakeholders, and the wider community that we are committed to gender equality and creating a safe workplace for everyone.

In summary, MTU and the Men’s Development Network strive to build a culture where women do not experience violence and abuse. By doing this, we are creating a safer and healthier space for women, men, and diverse identities.

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